First posted on Tuesday, 11 December 2012 at 20:14
The competitive pressure on wage costs is driving down the social unit of subsistence, beyond the point of reproduction, to the single person household. It is has long been accepted that society is becoming increasingly atomised. Largely brought about by the mobilisation of the female labour force, permitting a social unit of subsistence of one across the genders, the single person household is on the rise as the institution of marriage declines.
In the wake of the social atomisation comes a loosening of the ethical, moral and legal pressures for marriage. Being of no economic benefit, marriage, even co-habitation, are being discarded, as the love relationship is destined to be looked back upon as a quaint custom from a by-gone age. Sexual relationships are commodity relationships (perhaps always so under capitalism, but now overtly so), as sexual gratification, through pornography, ‘classified ad’ prostitution and meet-for-sex websites, leaves the back street for the high street, shopping mall and the internet.
Yes, we are all commodities now, dispatched to where needed most in the economy. In as much as we are all commodities, then we are all equal. It is an equality based on the free exchange of equal values, i.e. very much a liberal capitalist equality. Culturally and politically, this was the economic equality dreamed of by the Levellers, Thomas Paine, the French Revolutionists, the founding fathers of the United States, the communists and the political Left generally, i.e. a world in which we each have individual and equal human rights?
However, in a money-driven capitalist economy, the equality between workers applies in a society where all time is economic time. Technology has not freed men and women from economic slavery. Driven down to subsistence level by the competitive forces of the globalised labour market and the free movement of capital, the individual worker will soon be committing all time to economic activity.
Subservience to the economic is already being taken to the extreme and beyond, i.e. to the point where the reproduction of labour in western societies is being ruled out financially – leading to the very real competition between national governments to import workers.
Economic necessity is depriving the modern woman of motherhood. Giving birth and rearing children, the most precious and challenging act of human creativity imaginable, are being sacrificed for a life of banality behind a computer screen or, at best, the futility of pursuing a sterile career.
Yetto the logic of a money-based economy, marriage and motherhood are made to appear not as the conditions of a wider life and fulfilment, but the sacrifice of independence and the abandonment of ambition.
The home is no longer a centre of social activity; it has become merely a sleeping place for a number of independent wage-earners. The functions which were formerly fulfilled by the head of the family have been taken over by the state, which educates the children and takes the responsibility for their maintenance and health, as well as their indoctrination into money-based values.
The use of contraceptives and abortion has made sexual intercourse independent of parenthood. Where parenthood is sought at all, it will be for its own sake rather than as the natural fulfilment of sexual love. But under these circumstances who will trouble to marry? Marriage is losing its attraction for the young and the pleasure-loving and the poor and the ambitious. The energy of youth is being devoted to contraceptive love and only when men and women approach middle-age will they think seriously of settling down to rear a strictly limited family.
In these conditions of marital sterility, is it any wonder that people ask - why not gay marriage?